COVID-19 has governed social and professional life since spring 2020. Many countries have different approaches to dealing with the pandemic. Each individual business person has devised their own strategy on how best to deal with the situation. Ultimately, everything depends on overall trends. Car workshops have also adapted to the situation and have developed and implemented hygiene guidelines, sometimes going beyond the actual local requirements. We spoke to Marc Dobschal, operator of Autoklinik Dobschal in Bad Marienberg, about his experiences of the pandemic.
Everyday life has indeed changed. It is no longer easy for people to meet up. At the beginning of the pandemic, i.e. in March and April, there was an added feeling of anxiety: people were unsettled. After all, masks were not yet compulsory in Germany. Masks gave us a degree of certainty later on. Of course, we miss having in-depth conversations at reception, chatting with our customers, meeting in a relaxed way. In the past, we even had races on the Carrera track set up in our workshop’s lounge area. Eventually, we have all got used to the situation to some extent and treat each other with respect and caution. I am optimistic that we can overcome it together.
In March last year, we had a real slump. After that, the situation slowly calmed down a bit. We were able to profit from doing wheel changes, for example. In the summer, it was up and down, sometimes really busy, sometimes rather quiet. We noticed that our customers had other priorities, postponed repairs and were simply driving less. As a result, I delayed planned investments, for example in workshop equipment, to begin with in order to secure my liquidity. You could not plan properly. At the moment, the situation is looking more positive. I can look to the future again!
Right from the start, we have endeavoured to implement all requirements meticulously. That means wearing a mask, keeping your distance and limiting customer contact to the bare minimum. The workshop area is still not accessible for our customers. If a customer has to wait a few minutes, there is a separate lounge area, where only one customer is allowed to wait at a time. We have also had appropriate "Access only with FFP2 mask" signs put up, space lines have been put on the floor in the reception area, and a plexiglass screen is used at the service reception.
There are plenty of other things. Before handing over the vehicle, we disinfect the interior, the key and the door handles. We can no longer go on test drives with the customer. Each client gets their own pen to sign any documents. Besides, a "give-away” is always welcome. Last but not least, disinfectant is available in many areas.
Yes, of course. Invoices can be paid contact-free with an EC card or via Apple Pay, for example. If the customer really does want to pay with cash, an extra box is available and we are careful about hand hygiene afterwards.
It is not easy to say. It depends on how the pandemic develops. However, I have high hopes for the vaccinations and the testing strategy. I therefore assume that business will continue to pick up in the current year and that we will also be able to welcome customers who have so far postponed investments in their vehicles.
Georg Blenk, Krafthand Medien